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Patriots vs. Rams: Fan Notes from the Game

Related: Patriots vs Rams recap: New England’s season all but over after 24-3 loss

New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Welp...that’s that.

New England’s hopes of stringing together an unprecedented three wins in a row lasted about eight second into the very first quarter of last night’s game with the Los Angeles Rams, as LA more or less had their way with this Patriots team from the jump and never really looked back. If there has ever been a more confusing Patriots team, I don’t remember it. Are they bad? Are they good? Who the hell knows.

  • Although I guess if I’m being completely honest, the 2020 Patriots are the textbook definition of an average team. Good teams win the games they’re supposed to win, win the majority of those 50/50 games that could go either way by making plays when they need to, and then once in a while they get upset by some scrub team because this is sports and that’s what makes sports great. Bad teams lose the games they’re supposed to lose, don’t make the plays they need to steal the 50/50 games, and once in a while they all string it together and beat a good team in spectacular fashion.
  • But average teams? They win games they’re supposed to win. They lose games they’re supposed to lose. They win games they’re supposed to lose. They lose games they’re supposed to win. They drop the 50/50 games because they don’t have the playmakers. If that doesn’t define the 2020 Patriots perfectly, I don’t know what does.
  • On the plus side, if they’re going to lose, this is how I prefer they do it. I don’t need them taking games down to the wire, losing on goal line stands or last second fumbles. I want the loss to give me a wedgie right away and then leave me be. And that’s what we got here — this game was more or less over immediately. The Patriots were down two scores before the head had even settled on my beer, and this team isn’t built to come back from two scores against any team not named the New York Jets. Add to that the exact same problems that have been plaguing this team all season defensively — getting absolutely gashed on runs to the outside and poor tackling allowing receivers to generate YAC, and you get what we got last night.
  • In years past, watching an offense simply bowl this defense over would have been frustrating, because it would represent a fatal flaw in an otherwise championship caliber team. But it just kind of is what it is at this point.
  • Plus, there were some good things to come out of this game — mainly individual players, particularly younger players who are going to be sticking around next year. And from that perspective, this was a pretty solid game. Both Josh Uche and Adam Butler had phenomenal games in pass rush. Jake Bailey may be the best punter in the NFL right now. Michael Onwen may be the only offensive liineman who showed up at all last night. Damien Harris is a legit threat. Kyle Dugger is getting better every game. These guys will all be suiting up for this team next year.
  • And it’s next year that matters, because the 2020 season is for all intents and purposes over. 0% chance this team makes the playoffs at 9-7, assuming they even win out, so any hopes anybody had of sneaking in at 10-6 is out the window.
  • Well...technically, it’s a 4% chance. So If you want to be one of those people who roots for losses to help draft stock now, then fine — you do you. But there are still three games left and I’d like to see if the Patriots can finish strong.
  • The real question, I suppose, is what we can glean from the offense based on what we’ve been seeing these past few weeks juxtaposed with last night’s debacle. The 2020 Patriots seem to have two settings: run it down your throat or run around in circles like the little plastic men in that old timey vibrating football game and do nothing. What we do know is that the running game and offensive line will come back strong in 2021 and will likely once again be the engine of this team. What we don’t know is literally everything else.
  • Because the line can’t play much worse than they played last night. Credit where it’s due to a dominant Rams line, and when a team that isn’t built to throw the ball has to throw the ball, you’re going to take sacks, but yikes.
  • It’s maddening, because there really is some talent on this offense. Jakobi Meyers belongs on the field, and Damiere Byrd would be a solid WR4. There’s just no consistency or cohesiveness.
  • Which I guess is as good a time as any to talk about Cam Newton. My guess is that, for most fans of teams with non-franchise quarterbacks, this divide we’re experiencing as Patriots fans this season is more or less the norm. Cam stinks! Cam has no weapons! Cam is inaccurate! Cam is in a bad spot! Bench Cam! Cam is way better than his numbers show! We all seem to have chosen a side and are dug right in. Because if there’s one universal truth about sports debate, it’s this: I’m right, you’re wrong, and that you can’t see that makes you an idiot who doesn’t understand the subtle nuance of this game. You’re lucky I have all this free time on my hands to educate you over the internet.
  • My take? Cam is being asked to do a lot in a limited offense with a mediocre supporting cast. He’s playing more or less the way he has his entire career, save his one MVP season, and will continue to be fairly inconsistent. The real question coming into this year was whether or not he’d do enough to either earn himself a nice contract elsewhere or stay on as New England’s quarterback while they develop another talent via the draft. It now seems apparent to me that the answer to that question is none of the above.
  • Am I now in the “start Stidham now, why not see what he’s got?” camp? Nope. Belichick sees both Cam and Stidham every day. He’s still starting Cam for a reason — likely because without Cam Newton, who is at least a threat to run it, the Patriots become even more one dimensional.
  • How about that WR graphic they showed last night listing all those misses the Patriots have had since 2010? And I’m pretty sure the only reason they stopped in 2010 was because the Patriots drafted a quarterback in 2009 named Julian Edelman that they converted into a wide receiver, which I guess counts.
  • But it’s much worse than that, to be honest. Here’s a list of every single receiver the Patriots have drafted in the Bill Belichick era, in reverse order:
  • N’Keal Harry, Braxton Berrios, Malcolm Mitchell, Devin Lucien, Jeremy Gallon, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Jeremy Ebert, Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, Chad Jackson, P.K. Sam, Bethel Johnson, Deion Branch, David Givens.
  • Starting with Givens, that’s one solid receiver, one very good receiver, one wasted talent, one nobody, one bust, one special teams ace, one QB-turned receiver, one above-average return man, four straight busts, two nobodies, one potential cut short by injury, a future Jets all-star, and a first rounder who is rapidly approaching bust status.
  • That said, though, last night was hands down N’Keal Harry’s best game as a pro. His stat line is right on par with pretty much every game he’s had since he came into the league, but he ran some great routes, looked crisp in his breaks, and he FINALLY caught a deep contested pass along the sideline for a first down.
  • Come on, folks — give me something here. These are pretty painful to write this season.
  • Does anybody actually put any weight into completion percentage, passer rating, and stuff like that? Like are there actual human beings out there who look at an Excel spreadsheet and base players on that? Is that actually an enjoyable way to watch sports for some people?
  • While I’ve long entered the Acceptance phase of my Patriots grief, I’ll forever be triggered when I wonder why on Tebow’s Green Earth the Patriots aren’t even trying to get their young tight ends involved in the passing game. What are they worried about? That they won’t catch the ball? That getting them involved will result in poor passing numbers? Throwing to tight ends might not result in points? Yeah, you’d really hate to see that.
  • I personally would have liked to see a playaction pass to a tight end on the goal line as opposed to, oh I don’t know, three straight runs up the gut and a failed option for a loss of two and a turnover on downs.
  • I don’t know why more QBs don’t just jump up and stick their hands out when they have the ball at the one yard line. Odds are that the very tip of the ball will cross the plane before anyone gets a hand out to potentially strip it. Especially on 4th and goal from the one; you literally have nothing to lose there.
  • Troy Aikman couldn’t help referencing, constantly, how good this win must feel for the Rams given what happened the last two times these teams played. I hope it’s some nice redemption, I guess...but blowing out a shell of a team that beat you in the Super Bowl a few years ago is kind of like putting a fighting game back on easy mode and beating the crap out of the final boss who keeps handing you your own ass in normal mode just so you can feel validated for a brief moment.
  • The Patriots, having just given up a 16 play, 90 yard drive to go down 24-3, went Cam scramble for three, James White draw for three, Cam Newton sack, and punt. And I’m not even mad at that. There’s just nothing in the playbook for that kind of deficit.
  • Yesterday was a great example of a defense that has zero respect for the passing game, is more than willing to give up the occasional throw, and is just going to commit to stopping the run. No play for the Patriots worked more than once
  • If there’s anyone out there with a lot of time on their hands — I’d love to see a breakdown of how many times the season the Pats faced a third and a distance that dictated a pass, and the playcall was a crossing route two yards short of the sticks.
  • Any time you come away with three points on four red zone trips, you aren’t going to win the game. Simple as that.
  • Luckily, Bill Belichick just won in this stadium on Sunday, meaning he has won a game in 50 stadiums. That’s pretty amazing.
  • Watching Jermaine Eluemunor go up against Aaron Donald is one of those things that would be absolutely hilarious if it wasn’t happening to us. Kind of like when a guy gets kicked in the junk.
  • Usually, when the Patriots have their backup QB out there with 10 minutes left to play in the game, the Pats are up big. Not so much this year.
  • The Rams continuing to throw up 21 with five minutes left in the game is classless and running up the score, right? That’s what I’ve been led to believe through years of Patriots coverage.
  • Perhaps what’s most confusing to me is how this game still didn’t get over until after 11. I feel like every time the Rams had the ball they ate up 10 minutes of game clock and every time the Patriots had it they punted in about six seconds. This whole thing should have wrapped up by 9:45 PM and yet the final whistle didn’t blow until 11:03.
  • If you’re still bummed about this game, you can take solace in this: think about how universally despised the Patriots are. How much real estate they occupy in people’s heads. A few years ago, the most potent offense in the league, with the best running back in the league, couldn’t get in the end zone once. They were unable to run the ball at all and allowed Tom Brady, the most overrated player in the history of everything, to get his sixth ring. Those people were all watching last night’s game and just screaming at the TV, “WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU RUN THE GODDAM BALL LIKE THAT IN THE SUPER BOWL!!!” That makes me very happy.

Three games left, all against AFC East opponents. With a less than 5% chance of a playoff berth after this loss, it’s time to embrace the role other teams in this division know all too well: spoiler. Playing spoiler can be fun...I just don’t want to get used to it.